In 2002, my wife Danielle and I were house hunting and we were hoping for a community with good schools and businesses and people who cared for their neighbors. We wanted our future family to experience the wonderful childhoods we both had growing up in Maplewood and South Orange. We found our ‘American Dream’ on Coolidge Avenue in West Caldwell.
Four years later, our first child was born and 15 months after that our second child had arrived. At the same time, Coolidge Avenue and the ‘Presidential Section’ of West Caldwell welcomed a new addition in Juliana Donnelly, who was born to Brian and Doris Donnelly.
Juliana was always smiling and giggling. As she grew, so did her confidence and she would sing and dance in plays and on our street. Brian and Doris would walk with Juliana to Francisco Park where she would fly high on the swings and run the bases.
Brian was always the doting father with that perfect mix of give and take. But, Brian could never seem to deny Juliana when the ice cream truck would turn onto Coolidge Avenue and its music filled the street.
The neighborhood would watch as Brian set up orange cones on the street outside their home and we all witnessed Juliana reach that jubilant moment when confidence meets balance as Juliana would smile while riding her bike. We also shared in the joys of summer nights watching Juliana with children from blocks around playing hide and seek games and the thrill of catching fireflies.
On Juliana’s 5th birthday, she was diagnosed with a rare inoperable brain tumor. Brian and Doris focused on leaving no stone unturned in fighting to save the life of their daughter. They traveled weekly for Juliana’s treatments and to seminars in search of a cure. They researched and studied this dreaded disease and fought every day for Juliana’s comfort.
During Juliana’s last Christmas, she told her parents that the lights around their door and in their trees made her ‘feel better.’ Those Christmas lights shone brightly every night thereafter.
Juliana never lost her spirit.
Juliana always emanated happiness and a joyful innocence. She inspired and brought out the best that humankind has to offer. People from all walks of life, with unique talents and a common cause, came together to try and ease the pain of a child and her family. Spaghetti dinners and lemonade stands and business owners sold bracelets of hope for Juliana. So many people offering food and time and prayer, all pitching in for Juliana’s future, and quite possibly the future of a child we have never met.
Juliana was always adored by her neighbors and by the loving community of Notre Dame Church. She was embraced by the people of Denville and its Police Department where her father serves as a Sergeant. More recently, she was a part of the Washington School family where she completed kindergarten.
When thinking of Juliana, I am reminded of that old saying by the English author Albert Pine, “What we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
Let us live the immortal life-lessons taught to us by Juliana, to love and to care for one another, to sing and dance and play, and to smile that beautiful smile.
May God Bless Juliana Rose Donnelly.
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